The Last Illusion

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Love – the last illusion of the illusionless man

This quote is from the very end of Le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  First read in my teen years, I always considered it rather profound.  As the years have gone by I’m not so sure that I know what it means now.

So many years hoping to find the proof that love isn’t an illusion.  Seeing it in other people and yet never myself.

I can be incredibly moved by the great operatic loves.  Familiar operas like La Boheme or La Traviata tug at the heart strings for the absolute highs and then the lows of tragic loss of love.  Personally, the slow burn of Tristan und Isolde feels far more relevant.  A long build up of unrequited intensity only consummated as a spiritual entanglement in death during the sublime Liebestod – another illusion of love ?


And this, I think, is what I can accept love as meaning to me.  No fantasy any more of being bitten by the intensity of love at first sight, or the flash that says this is the soul mate whose side you never want to leave, or the lover you want to immediately elope with.

Intellectually I understand those manifestations of love and take joy in seeing them in others.  Emotionally, I don’t think I can personally encompass that level of understanding.  From what I read, that’s perhaps quite usual for an asexual, the immediate and intense physical passions are something of a mystery.  Yet they’re often made up for with the cerebral concepts of higher love.

Those spiritual types of love I can understand very well.  Back to opera again and something like the Dialogues des Carmelites or Rigoletto can leave me alternating between awe of spiritual or parental love and bawling my eyes out.

I look forward to other writers showing me glimpses of other truths about love.  Yet for me, those raw, visceral manifestations of love are as much of an illusion as they ever have been.

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